Lots has been written about this "millennial" generation...they're lazy, they're impatient, they're entitled. Employers complain about them, parents lament about them and the public is generally terrified of what will happen when they take over. But a recent rash of articles in Forbes Magazine - yes Forbes! - has started people singing a different tune. Perhaps the millennials aren't to be feared, but welcomed with open arms.
Now the "millennial" generation, or generation Y, technically applies to those born from 1980-2000, of which I am, just barely I'll admit, a part of. It's a wartime generation. From Desert Storm to the never ending "War on Terror," our country has been at war for the vast majority of our adult lives. It's a technological generation. We've seen the first computers, the first cell phones, the first digital televisions, the list goes on and on. We are a globally connected generation. We can video chat with someone in Israel, while watching real time footage of what's happening in Syria and reading status updates of what's going on in Egypt. Thanks to social media, we know when a friend in Ukraine is feeling scared, we can get tipped off to a great new band from Iceland and we can watch a kitten playing in a paper bag in Tokyo.
The political ride hasn't been any less dynamic, whatever your political leanings may be. So far, millennials have been able to vote in 4 presidential elections. The first, in 2000, illuminated the cracks inherent in a system that actually gives very little credence to what the majority wants. And the 3rd in 2008 saw the election of the first black president in a country founded on the backs of slaves. Distrust in the government and the corporations who fund it is rampant, and the polarization within the government is staggering. While currently the "liberal agenda" is being pushed and the "conservative backlash" intense and unyielding, things were arguably completely flipped just 6 years ago.
Issues of civil liberty are at the forefront - gay rights, women's rights, immigrant rights, the rights of the poor to a living wage and healthcare - followed closely by environmental concerns - clean water and air affected by fracking, pipelines and excessive carbon dioxide, genetic modification of our food sources and of course, the oft-debated climate change.
This is the world we have come of age in. And it sounds strikingly familiar to the world that lead to the explosion of social change in the 1960's. Now, whatever your feelings about the "hippie movement" may be, it is - in my opinion - undeniable that this decade effected the country and (dramatic pause) the world, in incredibly profound and positive ways. Civil rights, environmental protections, empowerment of the youth to affect change, all of this came about in those years. Not to mention some pretty kick ass music.
Like us, they were a wartime generation - fallout from WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Cold War. They were told to hide under their desks like we're told to report suspicious packages; our terrorists were their communists. Technology leapt forward in their generation as well, moving from radios to color TVs in every home as the means of family entertainment and ideas. The television connected them globally - images of war and news of assassinations visually poured into their living rooms for the first time. And 1956 and 1960 marked the first mass market television broadcasts of the Olympics, showing in (relative) real time what the world actually looked like, and what happens when we all came together in a positive way.
Our reality mirrors their reality, albeit with way cooler technology and slightly less naiveté. Already, the world can see the seeds of their passion sprouting once again as the millennials enter adulthood. And while righteous indignation and protest has it's place to spur change, the positive side of things, like volunteering, universal healthcare, alternative energy, organic foods and holistic living are steps towards a realized "utopian" dream. And don't get me started on popular culture - yoga, music festivals, fashion, marijuana legalization...they already brought back the VW bug, maybe the VW bus is next? (fingers crossed!)
The age of Aquarius is an astrological certainty, some believe it's already upon us, and it is thought to be a time of enlightenment and personal freedom. But what it will actually bring is up to our generation and the generation of our children. We can sow those seeds of a better world - we can create conscious corporations who care for their employees, we can be open minded leaders willing to compromise to find the best solution and we can rely on renewable fuel sources like wind, sun and sea water (yes, sea water!). We can vow to care for the least among us and we can honor the earth for the gift that it is. If Forbes will admit to the business world that this next generation of CEO's is something to look forward to, then imagine the positive impact in store for the rest of the world if we only take a lesson from those who went before us and open our hearts and our minds to the possibility of a better and brighter future. Maybe it is finally time to truly let the sunshine in.
yoga teacher, filmmaker, wife, mother and citizen of the world. this is my journey into radical gratitude and living each moment in pure joy.